Study finds chemical compounds used for hydraulic fracturing in household drinking water.
According to the findings of a study recently published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, trace amounts of 2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE), a chemical compound used in drilling fluid (and can also be found in cosmetics and household paint), were found in the drinking water of three Pennsylvanian homes; a finding which only adds to the growing concern that fracking poses risks to public health.
The three homes are located near gas wells in the Marcellus Shale.
The New York Times reported that although the study researchers at Pennsylvania State University said the drinking water samples contained traces of the chemical, the traces they did find were only tiny concentrations and posed no immediate health risk. However, the fact that the contamination exists at all has the environmental scientists questioning the integrity of frack wells in the Marcellus Shale.
The Marcellus Shale is an enormous subterranean natural gas field and the largest source of natural gas in America. The three homes where the 2-BE was found in the drinking water are located in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, close to gas wells, which were built in 2009 over the Marcellus formation.
The contamination may not be the result of fracking, but from lack of integrity in drill wells.
The oils and gas industry has long maintained that due to the fact that fracking takes place thousands of feet under drinking water aquifers, the injected drilling chemicals used to break up rocks to release the trapped gas, pose no health risks.
That beings said, in this particular study, what the researchers note is that the contamination may not have come from the actual fracking process occurring far below the aquifers, but from the drill wells, caused by a lack of integrity.
Scott Anderson, a senior policy analyst with the Environment Defense fund, said that well integrity was typically poor around 2008 and 2009, and that the industry has strengthened its practices since this time.
Anderson said that “Industry knows how to construct wells properly, but the fact is that they don’t always do so.” He added that “My hope would be that papers like this will encourage industry and its regulators to do a better job of doing what they already know they are supposed to do.”
That being said, the fracking industry criticized the new study and said that the research provided no evidence that the chemical came from a nearby well.